School Start Date Study OK’d By Legislature

OCEAN CITY — A bill that will create a task force to study the issue of moving the start date for public schools across Maryland back until after Labor Day passed both chambers as the General Assembly session expired on Monday.

For decades, the public school year in Maryland always started after Labor Day, the symbolic end to the summer season, but in recent years, most jurisdictions have moved the start date earlier and earlier, into mid-August in some cases. Because of its resort nature, Worcester was one of the last to hold onto the post-Labor Day start date for schools, but the county has joined the ranks of other school systems in recent years.

Last April, Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot met with Ocean City business leaders to jumpstart his initiative to push the start of the school year back after Labor Day citing the economic benefit to the state while maintaining the mandated number days in the school calendar. Meanwhile, Ocean City business leaders, including Greg Shockley, who chairs the state’s Tourism Development Board, approached Mathias recently about introducing legislation to at least study the issue and the Senator was more than happy to oblige.

The bill calls for the creation of a task force to study the issue from all sides. The task force would include state and local elected officials, school administrators, teachers, students and parents and business leaders. Mathias said he was keenly aware of the potential impacts on the school calendar, but hoped a compromise solution could be reached. He said this week he was pleased the bill passed.

“I worked with the leadership, the teachers, the teacher’s association, tourism and the comptroller’s office to get everybody on board with this and it wasn’t an easy task,” he said. “I really had to get out there and plead the case. The teachers were concerned because of all of the testing requirements and how much time and effort that requires. The thing to remember is this is just a task force to study the issue. This doesn’t yet mean the start of the school year is getting pushed back.”

Ocean City officials last month tabled a decision on a possible advertising campaign in order to see the outcome of the post-Labor Day task force bill. When Comptroller Peter Franchot met with resort business leaders last spring to launch his “Let Summer Mean Summer” and “Line in the Sand” initiatives, he said the early start date for schools has made it increasingly difficult for small businesses in Ocean City and across the state.